JMA and KSL have big time development plans lined up for Homewood and Squaw. Will adding more beds bolster business during the slow season or during the whole season?
If you’re on Unofficial reading an article titled “JMA & KSL Share a Vision of Development” I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you’ve already heard a thing or two about the major development proposals that JMA Ventures and KSL Capital Partners have in the queue for both Homewood Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley USA respectively. One thing I’m not as sure about is how these developments are going to influence the crowds and operations at the two resorts.
Both developers appear to have the same goal and business model. The idea being that by adding beds, i.e. condos, hotels, and the like, JMA and KSL will be able to attract greater numbers of destination travelers who will stay for several days on a given visit as opposed to one day, hopefully boosting business during the off times (midweek and slow seasons) without having an appreciable impact on operations during the conventional busy times (holidays and weekends).
Last Thursday at a the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council meeting, Art Chapman, Chairman of JMA Ventures LLC, presented his case for the necessity of growth and development in no uncertain terms. Chapman stated basically that revenues at Homewood Mountain Resort do not cover operational costs and that HMR must develop or the ski resort will close. The skier days per year for Homewood have been capped at around 100,000 for the last several years and unless that number grows the business is unsustainable. HMR is in the red roughly $5 million in operational costs over the last 6 years. That does not even take into account the $7 million already spent by JMA in capital improvements ($12 million total).
According to Chapman the crux of HMR’s problem is that Homewood just isn’t able to entice day skiers to drive the extra 30 minutes to ski when resorts like Squaw, Alpine, and Sugar Bowl are closer and offer equivalent or better skiing experiences. On the busiest weekends, Homewood can top out at around 3,000 skiers, but the average weekday drops to only 300 skiers per day. Weekend crowds at Homewood can create a mess of traffic on the West Shore and in the liftlines. HMR proposes to reduce the average weekend to 700 skiers per day and up the average weekday to 4oo skiers per day.
KSL and Squaw Valley are planning to add a host of beds as well.
In August, KSL submitted a pre-development application to Placer County for an all-season resort that would include around 1,200 units (3,800 bedrooms), which would be a mixture of residential, hotel, time-shares, and condos. The 1,200 additional units are allowed under the Squaw Valley General Plan.
“We need more critical mass for bed base,” said Chevis Hose, vice president of development for KSL. “We got a great mountain, but it’s not supported by a village. The village is not financially sustainable.”
Currently, there are 300 rooms in the village and 53,000 square feet of commercial space. Hose said that the original developers, Intrawest, built a disproportionate amount of commercial square footage compared to bed base.
Melissa Siig/Moonshine Ink
JMA’s final EIR/EIS amendments for the Homewood development are up for approval by the Placer County Planning Commission today (Oct. 18). HMR and JMA are well on their way to breaking ground. KSL’s plans for village expansion are still in the pre-development phase. KSL has the advantage of working off of Intrawest’s previous proposals for a phase III and IV development of the village at Squaw but they still might run into some issues with water availability. Unofficialnetworks reported on the issue of KSL’s pre-development application back in September (link to article). Additional information can also be found in the recent Moonshine Inc article here.
Both JMA and KSL’s development proposals sound fairly similar. Each argue that existing business models are unsustainable and that adding beds will improve business during the slack times. Both groups also suggest that operations will not become too crowded during peak periods. I’m not wholly convinced. Slow times like Spring, Fall, and weekdays have historically been slow for a lot of reasons outside of the control of resorts. The bed capacity in Squaw and the Tahoe region at large is not always maxed out during the slow season. What insures that adding more beds will draw the crowds?
What do you think? Are we going to see a smoothing of the visitor curve over the days and seasons as a result of added capacity or is it gonna be the same old bipolar ghost town to clusterf%#k distribution?
Be sure to watch “The Lost People of Mountain City” in the adjacent post on the Unofficialnetworks webpage.